POWs’ New Push

Posted January 23, 2004 at 4:38pm

More than a dozen American prisoners from the 1991 Persian Gulf War plan to launch a lobbying and public relations effort next month to raise awareness about their battle with the White House over frozen Iraqi assets.

The coalition plans to hold a press conference on Feb. 12 with a number of the POWs and Members of Congress who support their effort to have frozen Iraqi assets used as compensation for torture during the war. [IMGCAP(1)]

The campaign is being planned by Steptoe and Johnson, in coordination with the Russ Reid Co. and Hill and Knowlton.

In July, a federal judge awarded the 17 POWs nearly $1 billion in damages to be taken from the $1.7 billion worth of seized Iraqi assets last year.

But the Bush administration wants to use the frozen assets to help rebuild Iraq.

The Justice Department has attempted to nullify the July ruling, but federal judges in the District of Columbia Circuit have overruled the Bush administration.

The Justice Department filed another appeal late last year and lawyers for the

POWs will file a response this week.

While the lobbying coalition has not confirmed Congressional supporters to appear at the Feb. 12 media event, a number of Members have thrown their support behind their effort.

Last spring, Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Virgil Goode (R-Va.) co-sponsored the POW Protection Act, which would mandate that the U.S. government help prisoners of war seek monetary compensation from enemy states that violate international standards on POW treatment. The legislation has not seen any action.

In addition, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) introduced a resolution calling for the 1991 POWs and their immediate family members be compensated without delay in accordance with the July ruling.

The measure has been referred to the House International Relations Committee.

Cooney Lobbies for Movie Studio. Manus Cooney — not George Clooney — and his lobbying shop Potomac Counsel have signed up to lobby for MGM Studies, according to new lobbying reports.

Cooney, a former senior aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), started his firm after leaving his post as staff director for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Piper Goes to Bat for Victims. Piper Rudnick has registered to lobby on behalf of the victims of the 1996 Khobar Towers terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia, according to lobbying disclosure forms posted at PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

The firm represents the families of the victims, who need Congress and the State Department to help them lay claim to court settlements against those responsible for the attacks. Representing victims of terrorist attacks is a growing niche on K Street.

States Look to Feds. Mounting financial woes in state capitals continues to be good for business on K Street.

A number of state university systems have hired Washington lobbyists in the past month to help them get access to federal funds to support their schools.

The Dutko Group has signed up the University of California and the University of Vermont; former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) has registered to lobby for Texas College and Mississippi Valley State University, both historically black institutions; and Golin/Harris International has landed California State University at Dominguez Hills and North Dakota State College of Science.

Refineries Plant Lobbyist. Oil refiners have taken steps to bolster their lobbying team by hiring the Dutko Group.

The firm will monitor energy and environmental legislation on Capitol Hill for the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.

Alpine Goes South. The Alpine Group has been hired by Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources to work on legislation designed to save the Bayou State’s shrinking coastline.

The Alpine Group, known for its strong ties to Blue Dog Democrats, has a record of some success on land and water conservation issues.

Meanwhile, Alpine partner Dan Brouillette is in the middle of a temporary leave while he serves as staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee under Tauzin.